YOUNGSVILLE — Talk about sticking the landing.
The Youngsville football team has been flying high in 2011. And on Friday night, the Eagles completed its brilliant regular season arc with a flourish, trouncing Saegertown 48-22 to claim their first-ever Region 2 championship and finish the year at 10-0.
“We didn’t want to think we would be 10-0 (at the beginning of the season),” said the Eagles’ first-year head coach Luke Alex. “But we knew we would be good. We just never realized how good we could be.”
It was Youngsville’s first undefeated regular season since 1966. The Eagles finished the Region 2 campaign with an 8-0 record, and will be the conference’s top seed for next week’s District 10 playoff tournament.
“We were hoping that last year would be the year that we broke out,” said Alex. “But this year it just all came together.”
Saegertown finishes the regular season at 6-4 and slipped to 6-2 in Region 2. The Panthers will still most likely advance to the playoffs as the region’s third seed.
“Hopefully I can show my face in the community after this,” said Saegertown head coach Mike Rhoades. “Good job on an undefeated season for Youngsville. That’s great for them. But I don’t really have a lot to say about what we did.”
The game basically played out in the first half. Youngsville gained 421 yards to Saegertown’s 130, and scored all seven of its touchdowns on just 30 plays — averaging a touchdown about every four hikes.
Things started out interestingly, though. Youngsville’s Jordan Gurdak fumbled the ball away on the Eagles’ third play of the game and Saegertown recovered.
A few plays later, the Panthers moved the ball inside the 20 on a completion from Noah Marvin to Kyle Wise. But Wise had the ball stripped and Youngsville retook possession.
“Saegertown’s no joke,” said Alex. “They showed us what they could do early. Luckily we stepped up down there (in the red zone) and got a big turnover. That kind of shifted the momentum our way.”
A few plays after the turnover, Gurdak shot through the middle on the line on a trap and was off to the races 60 yards for the first touchdown of the game.
That was just the start of an all-out scoring frenzy by the Eagles.
Saegertown was three-and-out on its next drive. Then on the first play of Youngsville’s next possession quarterback Cory Craig connected with receiver Rocco Gatta on a 58-yard touchdown pass over the middle.
Youngsville kicker T.J. Hardy angled the ensuing kickoff high and short and the Eagles recovered to take possession in Saegertown’s end. Two plays later, Sam Lucas shot up the middle for an 18-yard scoring haul. Youngsville now led 21-0 and there was still six minutes left in the first quarter.
Saegertown was bewildered.
“We tried a couple different things. We weren’t sure if they were going to work. Obviously they didn’t,” said Rhoades. “By the time we got into something we were a little more comfortable doing it was too late.”
Youngsville returned to the end zone early in the second quarter on another big run by Gurdak. This one went for 33 yards and put the Eagles ahead 28-0.
Saegertown followed that up two offensive plays before fumbling away the ball in its own end. And Youngsville took advantage of that mistake, covering 26 yards on three plays, including an 11-yard TD run by Gurdak.
Saegertown’s next drive stalled out at Youngsville’s 30. And on the Eagles’ first play of the next drive, Gurdak, as if he hadn’t made up for that first-quarter fumble already, took a pitch around the left side and bolted down the sideline for a 70-yard score. The Eagles now led 42-0.
On Saegertown’s next drive, Marvin was picked off for the Panthers’ third turnover of the half.
Two plays later, Youngsville returned to the end zone on a 44-yard rush by Gatta.
That was basically it. Youngsville played its JV squad for the whole of the second half with the clock running.
Saegertown punched in a few touchdowns in that half. Marvin had a 12-yard touchdown pass to Shane Rigby early in the third quarter and a 51-yard scoring strike to the same receiver later in the frame. And backup quarterback Matt Humes carried in a touchdown from three yards out to put the final points on the board.
Sometimes it’s said that the game was closer than the score indicated. This game would be the opposite of that expression.
“(Youngsville) was good,” said coach Rhoades. “They were physical. They were amped up. The atmosphere was conducive to their play. They out-coached us. They just beat us in all phases of the game.”
Gurdak finished the night with 204 yards on nine first-half carries. Craig had 10 carries for 50 yards and was 2-for-4 passing for 71 yards. Lucas added 52 yards on six totes.
For Saegertown, Brock Lojek had 70 yards on eight carries. Kyle Wise chipped in 51 yards on 10 carries. Marvin was 8-for-15 passing for 126 yards. Rigby was his main receiver with four catches for 105 yards.